webcam street watch?
August 9, 2009 1:11 AM   Subscribe

Webcam server for dummies? A bunch us folks on a street here want to set up a few webcams aimed at the street that everyone here can view. Is there a 'youtube' (or / for webcams specifically?

- doesn't need to be free at all, just needs to be very very easy to set up. Picture one guy in each house having a cam aimed at the street, and all of us able to log on to "the street view" so we can see from house #1 to house #10 in the same page.
A few of use have actual (linux) servers, so if there is some dead-easy webcam->webpage software out there bring that on. We're webcam n00bs and googling made us no wiser. Specifically, it has to be easy for a neighbor to "join" in with their webcam, as if they were user-groups on a social webpage. We also want to cam to archive footage. (not forever though)
posted by dabitch to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know of any software that does this.

But, as a programmer, this strikes me as a pretty difficult problem to begin with.

It's one thing to do a frame every five seconds with HTTP refreshes. But, if you're talking about youtube, you probably want actual live video on a webpage. Which means flash.

Unfortunately, the flash video playback you're used to is a total kludge. In order to pull this off, you'll need to transcode the video on the fly. Then you'll need to write a flash doohickey that can accept a stream of said video--which is kind of a bitch, since the last time I worked with it, it couldn't accept a stream from elsewhere.

Anyway, if you don't find something off the shelf, drop me an email and I'll put together a proposal to build you what you want. It won't be free (at all), but maybe we can work something out.
posted by Netzapper at 1:26 AM on August 9, 2009

Does it have to be video? If you're willing to have, say, once-per-ten-seconds update rate, then it gets a lot easier.
posted by hattifattener at 1:42 AM on August 9, 2009

Netzapper: Not true (cf. ustream and other live video sites). You could certainly construct a flash server that took in live streams and displayed them all together on a page.
posted by rhizome at 1:49 AM on August 9, 2009

Netzapper: Not true (cf. ustream and other live video sites). You could certainly construct a flash server that took in live streams and displayed them all together on a page.

It's been awhile since I programmed actionscript. I'm glad to hear that they've included some sort of generic transport stream. Last time I used it (three or four years ago), I couldn't find anything but an XML reader and an HTTP client--both of which only worked on known-length transfers.

If that's the case, then it's somewhat easier than I had anticipated.
posted by Netzapper at 2:11 AM on August 9, 2009

QuickTime Broadcaster + Automator + a simple, custom-written web application could let you quickly (relatively speaking) automate publishing a webcam feed, or embedding a few RTSP stubs from different cameras in different web frames.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:21 AM on August 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

You can get cameras with servers built in, so you just plug it into your router, forward the port, and forget about it. I had a crap one from a company called Swann, which relied on windows and activex. I presume there are better ones out there. Something on this page might fit the bill.
posted by pompomtom at 2:23 AM on August 9, 2009

Pompomtom's way is sexiest. I like the Axis brand cameras for this: far from Web-2.0 sexy, but rock solid industrial build quality (steel!) and a nice webserver built in. So you make a custom web-page very simply like:

img src=""
img src=""
img src=""

Where .1, .2, and .3 are your neighbors' IP numbers.

It'll still only work well with still images (not live video) but should be fast enough that you can meta-refresh or reload the images every 5-10 seconds or so.

If you're dealing with a mix of hardware and software (likely), I'd still "standardize" on the method above, and have everyone configure whatever hardware/software they have to replace an image on a server every (x) seconds. FTP, most likely, and you make 10 different ftp accounts.
posted by rokusan at 3:40 AM on August 9, 2009

Best answer: Ustream can do pretty much everything you want.
posted by merocet at 8:59 AM on August 9, 2009 [4 favorites]

Oh and for the same page thing you'd have to create your own page just using the embed video code that they give you for each camera you set up. Easy.
posted by merocet at 9:03 AM on August 9, 2009

If you're planning to use the webcams for night viewing, you should know that most webcams perform horribly in low light conditions.
posted by sdinan at 9:14 AM on August 9, 2009

Best answer: Motion. You could spend days configuring it, but it works out of the box, can record timelapse videos, capture motion sequences and streams live.

It's a command line Linux app, but it can run a small configuration web service, too. You could set a couple of these up and aggregate the feeds on to a single web server.

Here's a sample of a storm. I made this a couple years ago.
posted by cdmwebs at 9:23 AM on August 9, 2009

Nthing Ustream.
posted by jgirl at 9:26 AM on August 9, 2009
posted by jmnugent at 11:59 AM on August 9, 2009

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